A Future for Reference?

CIQ Headlines

The man in a tweed coat, suspenders, and owl-eyed glasses sits across from me at the conference table describing his ground-breaking reference work. He’s coming out with a new version in a different subject verticle. And he’s wondering: What do I do now in the world of Google?

Through our reliance on Google and Wikipedia, we are at risk for losing huge swaths of history and culture. I have to ask the question: With these free, high-quality research tools at my fingertips, would I ever be motivated to seek out a reference work like the one written by my professorial interlocutor? Maybe not. Like most people, I’m pretty lazy. Also like most people, unless I start my research in a libary, I won’t even know such a thing exists.

A recent NYT article described the same phenomenon. People are doing lots of research digitally– the article said. Which means that scanned document, such as Mark Twains notes, have more exposure than ever before. But, those things that are not scanned, are lapsing into obscurity, as people forgo libraries in favor of the convenience of their home computers.

In our opinion, subscription content producers need to form a league with each other. There are the successful ones– like the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports– who can lead the way. I and many others who value works of reference and culture soon to be displaced by online, would be willing to pay a package price– say $250/year– for access to subscription content and reference work. It’s like the HBO/Cinemax/MTV cable subscription. Only for the tweed set.

CIQ Headlines for March 30, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Radio Customized for You— (NYT) Pandora, Last.fm and Slacker keep track of your musical tastes, then customize programming for you. They throw in new material you might like. “They all do it by harnessing the technological forces of social networking, data mining and music analysis, though each uses a slightly different technique.” CIQ: Sounds like a lot less work than composing your own playlist.

Young Adult Books for Adults— (WSJ) Publishers love the fact that the YA audience is hot– sales up in a large flat market, with targets easy to reach online in places like MySpace. And yet, books written in teen voices (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and upcoming I Love You Beth Cooper) are being marketed to adults. CIQ: We’re interested in publishers doing more to reach adults online. Too few have serious online marketing efforts, though they say they do.

SecondLife Not Alone— (Business Week)  MapleStory and KartRider are more two dimensional role playing games. Users say they are for non-techies. The games are given away for free, but make money because users pay for clothes and accoutrements for their avatars. CIQ: In February at MapleStory, users spent $1.2 million on 600,000 avatar-enhancing items. We wonder how long it will take brands to product avatar items. 

CIQ Headlines for March 28, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Child Put to Bed— (NYT) Meredith Corporation will cease publication of Child Magazine, though it will keep the Child website running. CIQ: Like the American version of Premier and Life Magazine, the Child strategy is becoming familiar in the fading print world.

Ads Go to Gaming–(Adage) Marketers like P&G are sponsoring games, allowing gamers to play for free if a game contains ads. CIQ: With 100 million gamers out there, it’s a huge untapped platform for ads. It seems likely that other untapped platforms (books? music downloads) will explore this terrain.

Finder’s Fee–(Chicago Tribune) One 17-year old makes $1000/month digging through news and making recommendations to sites like Netscape and Digg.com. CIQ: The job is to find unusual content like an image of “Dubai in the fog.” We love this idea. A way to empower knowledgeable searchers to recommend content. It’s kind of the anti-Google.

CIQ Headlines for March 27, 2007

CIQ Headlines

Digitally Lagging Agency Dropped by Nike— (WSJ) Wieden + Kennedy has lost the Nike account it shepherded since 1982. Sad, but “what really unnerved Madison Avenue was that one of the main reasons for Nike’s move was dissatisfaction with the agency’s digital expertise, according to people close to the account.” CIQ: We feel that the brightest digital minds are probably not attracted to working in big agencies because, overall, agencies have not valued what they do.

Is the NBC-News Corp Venture a Serious Threat to YouTube?–(Fortune) Not if you read between the lines, according to this news analysis. The inititative doesn’t have a name or a CEO or a definitive start date. Also, it took the 5 companies involve (including AOL, MSN and Yahoo) 15 months to sort out the terms that would get them to this nameless, captain-less, launch-date-less point. CIQ: We agree. Sounds like big-media-tries-to-immitate-nimble-startup syndrome to us.

The Death of the Album–(NYT) The sales of traditional record albums continue to slide. Labels are signing artists for a couple of songs. Consumers are moving to iPod playlists. CIQ: For years consumers have bought full albums and found only a few good songs. We wonder about artists teaming up to release a “playlist” with the best work from each, a theme, and a discount at iTunes for buying the package.

CIQ Headlines for March 23

CIQ Headlines

Even Covering the News Biz is Not Profitable–(Forbes.com) Saying they are “tired of producing painful forecasts” independent newspaper analyst John Morton and media economist Miles Groves, are calling it quits, ceasing the production of their well-respected Morton-Groves Newspaper Newsletter. CIQ:The writing on the wall is now taking up most of the wall.

Message to Agencies is Get Digital–(Media Post) Several speakers at this week’s OMMA conference in Hollywood reinforced the point: In order to survive, traditional agencies must change. CIQ: We think the division between branding and direct marketing will need to be erased.

Self-Made YouTube Star in Deal with Hersheys–(Brandweek) Lonelygirl15, the psuedo video diary, offers friends a piece of IceBreaker gum. CIQ: We aren’t sure that product placement, even one as innovative as this, is the answer for advertisers struggling to find more effective vehicles.